The Race For Mayor: This Year & 2009
A little more than two weeks ago Mayor Bloomberg was re-elected by a 3-2 margin, remarkable in a city with predominantly Democratic enrollment. There do not yet appear to be portents of great change in the Bloomberg Second Term.
“The leopard does not change his spots,” and it would be unlikely for the mayor, now a young 63, to change his style or attitude, especially since the polls say that the public now approves of him in record numbers. In about two years he went from 32 to 75 percent approval which indicates either that the public is forgiving, that it pays to advertise, or that when confronted with a human alternative, New Yorkers preferred the Mayor they knew to the distinctly unstylish and untested challenger.
Apart from lack of money, the Diallo blunder, and the usual rivalries, the Ferrer campaign did relatively poorly because it was based on three themes which had limited appeal: 1) I am a Latino, and it’s our time. 2) I am a Democrat and we are the party of the people, the poor and a lot of the middle class. 3) Bloomberg is spending enormously on his campaign, and your sense of fairness should compel you to vote for me, the underdog.
The problem with a campaign of lamentations is that the public looked at the election as if they were hiring a man for a job, a CEO for a $50 billion a year enterprise.
Which of the two men, in the normal course of events, would you think of as more likely to manage your property competently and honestly, protect your home and your personal safety, and be mindful of your taxes?
The surprise of the 2005 primary was the separate collapses of two campaigns originally regarded as promising: Speaker Gifford Miller’s and Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields’. Miller started as the insiders’ choice, with the most endorsements, the most money, the most valuable experience in city government.
He foundered on an ethical issue, sending out a massive $1.5 million mailing at public expense.
Ms. Fields crumbled over the vacuity of her campaign, her principal distinction being that she grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, when the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was active there. She was unfairly tormented by the press over a minimal issue - in a piece of campaign literature intended to show the diversity of her support, the faces of Asians had been pasted over the faces of non-Asians.
The competition was highlighted by the meteoric rise, followed by the apparent self-immolation, of the brash but bright Congressmember who has followed his constituents from Brooklyn to Queens, Anthony Weiner. He was the quickest in debate, evoking images of Koch in the 1970s, before moderate Democrats became an endangered species.
Weiner carried Miller’s home district on the east side, and appeared to be the candidate who best captured the New York spirit, part cab-driver, part policy wonk, part cheerleader. In the primary, he polled an astonishing 29 percent of the vote, since he started as unknown. In fact, he almost denied Ferrer the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff, but Weiner did not want to be viewed as a spoiler, dividing the Democratic vote. Although it seems to us that the voters make the decision as to whether they divide their vote. One reason the taxpayers pay for these campaigns, is that they have the right to choose.
Weiner explained that he didn’t want the 2005 primary to resemble the battle of the hanging chads, with every vote contested, and with bitterness developing so that either winner would end up the loser. He will now have four years to show New York Democrats why he would be a better mayor than City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., who is the obvious establishment choice. And don’t forget Adolfo Carrion, the articulate Bronx Borough President, who will be term limited out of his job, or Marty Markowitz, energetic tub-thumper for Brooklyn.
The effort will be made by party leaders to sink Weiner before the competition sharpens. Weiner’s critics will say: who needs another Schumer? But when he was re-elected in 2004, Schumer won a record 71 percent of New York State. Will Weiner resist the enticements of the Washington Beltway, or yield to them as Schumer did when he decided to assume a more important role in the Senate rather than contest Eliot Spitzer for the 2006 Democratic nomination for Governor?
What’s past is prologue. In both politics and sports, people say: “Wait ‘til next year.” We look forward to what 2006 will bring us, and invite your comments on the efforts of those who would turn the wheel to their advantage.